Amazon has recently announced that they're going to build a co-equal 2nd Headquarters which will benefit from 50,000 jobs and $5 Billion in private investment. Let's take a look at Amazon's list of criteria and see if we are in the running, shall we?
- More than 1 Million people. Check!
- International hub airport. Check!
- Stable & business friendly environment (Forbes ranks us 9th, CNBC ranks us 3rd). Check!
- Quality Higher Education. Check!
- An educated workforce. Check!
- Mass Transit. Check! (sort of, ours is pretty weak compared to other metros who would be in the running)
- "Urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent." MSP - we've been doing that for decades. Check!
- "Communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options." Now, this is, of course, Amazon setting up a bidding war to look for tax breaks. The MN Legislature has a history as sparkling (or tarnished, depending on your perspective) as any other metro in lobbing taxpayer funds at corporations hoping to land them. (I extrapolate on this more in thr paragraph below)
Whatever Amazon decides to do, I think it's pretty obvious that the firewater the MN Republicans have been pitching for the last 30 years is flat. No one is drinking it - not even Amazon. Amazon said nothing about prioritizing a low regulatory environment, low corporate taxes, or low personal taxes for its CEOs. They said nothing about the Republican's hallmark of last legislative session, cutting estate taxes, nor of changing teacher licensure or banning gay marriage. In fact, the only thing Minnesota Republicans have done that would have any impact on Amazon's decision is their consistent insistence on burying mass transit and, seeing as this is exactly the opposite of efforts Amazon demands, it seems they might have ruined our shot at landing 50,000 jobs and $5 Billion in capital expenditures.
I'm not saying Minnesota ought to necessarily jump into a bidding war to land this nugget, and I have been suspect of these subsidies for years. Our past ventures in operating that way have been both successful and not - and we seriously dodged a bullet with the $900 Million we offered to Saturn in 1985 - that plant, eventually built in Tennessee, closed in 2007.
Based on Amazon's criteria, and notwithstanding any surreptitious efforts to squeeze additional cash incentives from taxpayers, it seems that the only thing which makes us an Amazon contender are items which we have done well collectively as a state, and have paid for with tax dollars: a well educated workforce, quality higher education, international airport hub, and a high quality of life. Republican's "perfect business climates" in states like Alabama and Mississippi aren't anywhere on their list.
It's going to take big thinking to grow Minnesota in a direction we need to attract talent and, let's be honest, our future has always been secured more by ennabling homegrown talent (we've still got more Fortune 500 companies per capita than any state after Connecticut, and we're assuming that is only due to the fact that the entire state is a suburb of New York) than it is by dressing up to attract new partners. Continuing to ennable that homegrown talent is the province of workhorses and policy geeks who've got their eyes fixed on 20 years from now. There'll be folks who hype the Amazon deal and, yes, they'll get the headlines. Hell, I might even do it. But keep in mind that a growing Minnesota is found in the inane tax provisions and policy fights done in conference committee at odd hours while everyone is sleeping - even the reporters. If you're looking for a good deal to fawn over, pick a candidate who's running for the legislature next year and volunteer/donate/get-to-know-em. That, and not Amazon, is what's going to save us from chasing rabbits down rabbit holes. And that's how it's suposed to work in a Republic anyway.